What is now Bay Plaza Mall was once a Bronx video store where, in 1999, the body of 13-year-old Minerliz Soriano was found stuffed in a back alley dumpster.
Police say she was sexually abused and strangled.
“It has been 22 years since her life was cruelly taken, but detectives never gave up,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said.
Joseph Martinez was arrested Monday and charged with two counts of second-degree murder.
Investigators say the 49-year-old New Rochelle resident goes by the name “Jupiter Joe” and has a YouTube page which shows him teaching children astronomy on the street.
Sources tell CBS2’s Ali Bauman at the time of the murder, Martinez was living in the same Bronx apartment as the teenage victim and was even questioned by investigators after her death but was not considered a suspect at the time.
“There was DNA present on the victim, and it was an unknown donor, which means the person is not identified. He’s not in any known database,” retired NYPD detective Malcolm Reiman said.
Reiman was on the case from the beginning. Determined to solve it, even when the case went cold, he began pushing for familial DNA testing to be used when the new technology emerged.
“If the perpetrator’s relatives are in the database, it will actually indicate that the relative is in the database,” Reiman said.
That’s exactly how detectives tracked Martinez down.
“When familial DNA search was introduced, familial DNA searching is a deliberate search using specialized software for a relative. So we searched this particular DNA profile, and as a result, we had a forensic familial DNA search hit to the father of the defendant,” said Emanuel Katranakis, commanding officer of the NYPD Forensic Investigative Unit.
This is the first time the technique has led to an arrest in New York City. Reiman says its success is a game changer.
“This is something that’s going to change the way that homicides are looked at,” he said.
Martinez pleaded not guilty.
When Bauman sat down with the victim’s family on Monday night, they had one question.
“I’d like to say to him, why?” said Amelia Soriano, the victim’s aunt.
It’s an answer the family will have to keep waiting for as investigators have not shared a motive.